The Art of 3-Betting in Poker: Part 1

Many of you will already be familiar with the term ‘3betting’ as part of the pre-flop strategy it relates to the idea of putting a third bet into the pot. Or in more simple terms reraising an initial opening raise. Your opponent raises to 2 times the big blind and you ‘3bet’ the pot.

It is seen by many as one of the most powerful tools in a poker players’ arsenal, 3-betting means you can do a variety of things. From bluffing your opponent’s pre-flop to building a pot before the flop with your premium hands like AA/KK. But in truth, there’s a lot more to it than that and this article will aim to introduce the art of 3-betting.

First of all, we will focus on the hands you need to put into your ‘3bet range

Which Type of Hands Should I 3-bet with?

In truth, this question is one that has a varying amount of answers. Traditionally, 3betting was seen as a way to build the pot with your ultra-premium hands like AA-QQ and AKss and AKo. Since then though the strategy has evolved to where you can 3bet a ‘wider rangedepending on the situation and stack size.

Let’s take this example: it’s the start of the tournament.

All players have 150 big blinds.

We are on the button, the cutoff opens to 2.5x the big blind.

We estimate that they are raising around 35% of the deck here as there are already antes in play. That means that we can ‘3bet’ a much wider range than usual as we have a wide array of hands that will be profitable as 3-bets versus the openers 35% opening range. An example 3-betting range is shown below:

Texas Hold Em Poker 3-Betting Range from Button

As you can see this range includes a lot of ‘suited combinations’, this is because suited cards perform better or play better in 3bet situations. Here’s why:

  • Suited hands often have better equity versus a range than raises and calls a 3bet. For instance, AQss can obviously flop a flush unlike offsuit combinations, which means it can win bigger pots more often than offsuit combinations like AQo, we can win without flopping a pair!
  • Secondly, it’s often easier to bluff with suited combinations, this is because of course, we can flop a flush draw on the flop like T54cc with KJcc. From here we can push our equity and pressure our opponents whether we hit our flush or not. However, we can also flop a backdoor flush draw, for example with KJcc the flop could be T73 two hearts and one club. This means we can bet and potentially pick up a flush draw on a turn like the 4c so we now have a flush draw and two overcards to the board to bet with. Whereas with KJo we would not have a flush draw in this situation and our equity in the pot would be a good deal lower!

The above example is just an instance of how to define your 3bet range to a certain situation. However, there are so many more to think about when ‘grinding’ poker and that’s part of the fun!

Another important element when thinking about which hands to 3bet is your stack size.

How do Stack Sizes Affect your 3-bet Strategy?

In the example above we had 150 big blinds to start the hand so we could 3bet a wide range of hands versus the late position raiser. However, of course in MTTs which can be tracked by Pokertracker often have fewer big blinds than that and also face open raises from early, middle and late positions. If we have only 50 big blinds, for example, we have to be more selective and change which hands we 3bet at this stack depth.

For example, if a middle position opens with a range of around 17-20% of hands with 50 big blinds and we are in the cutoff position with the same stack, things are much different from the 150bb example above. Here we have to consider the fact that our opponent will be forced to ‘4bet’ (reraise our 3bet) with hands like AKo AKss QQ-TT which means that as the 3bettor we will face a lot more 4 bet all-ins at the 50bb stack size. This naturally means that our range has to change somewhat in regard to what we 3bet. How this range change isn’t an exact science, however when we are shorter stacked, let’s say 30 to 50 big blinds, there are some general guidelines to follow.

  • Flat call and not 3bet more of your high equity suited hands like KJss/KQss and AJss/AQss. This is because, as stated above, a lot of these hands lose their equity when they get 4bet or re-raised in the pot. Which will now happen more often. With these hands, we want to see flops, not 3bet and then be forced to fold to an all-in shove!
  • This shift in strategy means that we have to 3bet some other types of hands that don’t mind not seeing the flop as much. These are usually offsuit hands like KTo or ATo. Or perhaps lower suited hands like K7ss and K6ss, that aren’t quite good enough to see a flop with most of the time but have good blockers in regard to blocking our opponent’s high-value hands like KK and AA etc. So rather than 3bet KQss like we did at 150bb, we might want to call that now instead and 3bet something like KJo as that serves better a 3bet at this stack size.

If you’re a little confused by the changing dynamics of 3betting when it comes to differing stacks sizes and situations at the poker tables, then don’t worry. It’s supposed to be a little confusing because the 3betting strategy in poker is extremely hard to nail and down perfect!

Which is part of the beauty of the wonderful game of poker! I hope you found this post helpful and watch this space for further advice on 3betting in poker and MTTs in particular.

Make sure to check our exciting Art of 3-Betting Part 2, where other great tips and tricks are awaiting you!

If you have any questions, please let us know in the comments below.

James Brady

Poker Coach

I have played over 50k MTTs over 10+ years and coached this poker format for 8 years. I still have a passion for both playing poker and coaching the game to my students. I also enjoy and specialise in blogging and writing so am always looking for opportunities to express my thoughts and opinions on the game. It’s a joy!

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